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Further information- The Traffic Light Programme

In 2002 Weight Concern successfully piloted a new obesity treatment programme for children, the Traffic Light Programme, in partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital. This was the first time this programme, originally developed in America, was offered in the UK.

The number of obese children has increased dramatically. In the United Kingdom, more than 350,000 children under 16 are obese and at risk of serious health problems.

  • more than 60% of overweight children have at least one heart disease risk factor
  • type II diabetes, which once affected only adults, is now being diagnosed in obese teenagers
  • evidence shows that obese children are likely to become obese teenagers and adults, with all the health risks that this entails
  • obesity can damage children's psychological well-being, contributing to anxiety and depression
  • obese children are often subject to teasing and bullying, with potentially devastating effects on their

What the programme involved
Weight Concern's Traffic Light Programme covered exercise, social support and healthy eating. All members of the family were encouraged to eat more
healthily, be more active and support the child. A key part of the programme,
however, was the psychology-based support and training offered to families,
showing how they could change current behaviours.

The pilot, which involved thirty families over a three- to six- month period, was successful. Parent s and children that took part in the Traffic Light Programme found it enjoyable and helpful:

Christine’ daughter Faye attended the pilot treatment groups:

"I think the programme is wonderful… The people were very supportive and caring. Faye loved it and looked forward to going every week, meeting the other children and giving each other support. It was wonderful at raising my daughter's self esteem…"

What next?
A larger trial of the Traffic Light Programme has recently been run in
collaboration with Great Ormond Street hospital to test whether the programme would be effective for a greater number of families and over a longer period of time. This was called the ‘Children’s Treatment Trial’ and compared the Traffic Light Programme against another treatment option.

The Children’s Treatment Trial has now finished and the results are being evaluated.

If you are interested in a family-based approach to weight management, where the whole family learns how to become more active and eat more healthily, there are a number of options:

  • Contact your local council to see if they offer any services for families. this might include ideas for getting more active.


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